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Pure Pies 

You'll find plenty of fresh, organic variety at this pizza joint

Eclectic Pizza is a neighborhood restaurant in a most upscale neighborhood. Located in a well-established strip mall on the corner of Tanque Verde and Sabino Canyon roads, this tiny pizza joint certainly reflects its surroundings. The décor is stylish; the menu offers modern versions of old Italian standbys; the clientele is a mix of well-off retired folks and young up-and-comers.

Like the nearby Eclectic Café, which has a partnership with the pizzeria, Eclectic Pizza features a down-home feel with a sincere commitment to delicious, fresh fare (the dough and pizza sauce, and some of the pastas and vegetables, are organic), super-friendly service and reasonable prices.

Our first visit was on a Thursday night. Most of the tiny tables--we counted seven inside and three outside--were occupied, and a steady flow of takeout customers kept the kitchen busy.

Our earnest young server was at the table within seconds, checking to see if we'd like glasses of water while we perused the menu. Water is a tight commodity these days, and many places don't bother with it unless you ask. This was a nice touch.

Upon his return, we ordered from the small but serviceable wine/beer list. John had a Moretti beer ($4.50), and I ordered a glass of chianti ($5.50). We also ordered the spinach-artichoke dip ($7) for starters.

The drinks were brought to the table with dispatch, but we had to wait a while for the dip. In the interim, we ordered entrées. John ordered an 8-inch pepperoni ($6 plus 60 cents for the topping). Choices of toppings are numerous and include anchovies, two types of chicken, sausage, pineapple, ham, zucchini, two kinds of olives, several types of peppers (including jalapenos) and cheeses including Swiss, cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta, in addition to quite a few more items.

I ordered a dinner special--a choice of pasta (in this case, meat lasagna) and the pepper salad ($15). Separately, before 4 p.m., the cost would've been $10 for the lasagna and $7 for the salad. (There is also a lunch special between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.; you can get a slice of cheese pizza and a soda for $4; it's 25 cents for extra toppings.)

The wait for the dip was worth it. Cream cheese, lots of spinach, artichokes and garlic were baked until the mix was hot and gooey, and the whole thing was served with a pile of lightly toasted French bread. We dug in, and it was delicious (though we did add a sprinkle of parmesan to round out the flavors). There wasn't a drop left.

The salad came next. This dish exemplifies the philosophy at Eclectic Pizza: The salad was unique, pleasing to the eye and outstandingly fresh. A well-balanced balsamic vinaigrette was served on the side. The dark green of the spinach and basil set off the bright red and yellow of the roasted peppers. Like the colors, the flavors blended perfectly; the freshness of the spinach and the sweet smokiness of the peppers were tops.

Next came the pizza. This is really the children's portion of pizza; Eclectic Pizza is totally kid-friendly. Not only is there a nice children's menu, but there are plenty of quiet activities such as coloring and games, to keep the kids busy during the wait for their dinner.

We both munched on the pizza while I waited for my lasagna. We could really taste the freshness, especially in the house sauce. The dough was light yet had a nice bite to it. And there were numerous pepperoni slices on top.

The lasagna arrived steaming hot, accompanied by two large pieces of garlic bread. Meatballs and hunks of sausage were layered between pasta and a mass of tasty ricotta filling. All of it was topped with marinara sauce and mozzarella. While it might have benefited from a few more minutes in the oven, the lasagna was delicious.

We asked for home-baked chocolate-chip cookies ($2.50 for two), but none were available. Nor were the other choices (oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip with walnuts); we didn't want to wait the required 15 minutes. But we were so full that it didn't really matter.

We returned for lunch the following Saturday, which also proved to be a pleasant experience.

We had discussed the colors of the wall on our first visit. Were they reds or oranges? With the light of day, we decided: oranges. An eclectic mix of light fixtures hung from tracks, and brightly colored art--also quite eclectic--hung on the walls. A comfy chair, where you can wait for your pizza to go, sits in the corner.

This time, John ordered a meatball sub ($6.25), and I ordered one of the "Eclectic Pizzas." There is an international touch to this side of the menu, featuring everything from a Thai red curry pie to a Mid-East pie to chicken-n-chorizo. I opted for the 12-inch Old Town Classic ($13), which comes with fresh organic tomatoes, basil, garlic and mozzarella.

John also ordered a soda ($1.10). On the family end, certain sodas are available in two-liter bottles for $2.20.

Our eyes were certainly bigger than our stomachs. The crusty roll for John's sandwich was full of tender meatballs and totally smothered in sauce and mozzarella. He compared it to the ones he used to eat in New York (especially since there were so many meatballs in the sandwich).

The ingredients on the pizza were an ideal combo, and oh so fresh! The delicious ingredients topped a tender crust. Fresh was definitely the word of the day. The only drawback was that my pizza arrived well ahead of John's sandwich.

Eclectic Pizza is easily accessible, offers plenty of health-conscious food at reasonable prices and is devoted to quality service. They also deliver; check their Web site www.eclecticpizza.com for the boundaries and menu. A neighborhood couldn't ask for anything more.

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